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More Than Business As Usual For 36 Districts.
West side from Hawthorne Bridge South via David Gillaspie

via David Gillaspie

Portland began with an 1845 coin flip. At least that’s the official story.

But Portland was Portland before two Easties, one from Portland Maine, the other from Boston, made their call.

The clearing that became Portland was already an early business district for tribal trade.

A land speculator in the wagon train year of 1843 noticed the future site of Portland sat between the established Oregon City and Fort Vancouver.

Bill Overton saw the three factors of a good real estate deal: location,…you know the rest.

He claimed the standard 640 acres, gave half away for filing expenses, then sold his remaining half.

Portland business jump started from there to last night where I sat inside the Portland Building, Meeting Room C, with business district representatives from across the city.

It couldn’t have been more Portland.

Maybe a hundred people, from Millenials to Greats with an even gender ratio, came downtown for grant certification training and chicken enchilada from Elephants.

Between the gathered group, Alison Stol’s on point presentation, and folders with color-coded information/work sheets, a unique Portland picture came into focus.

via David Gillaspie

Between Hawthorne and Morrison Bridges via David Gillaspie

To no one’s surprise Portland isn’t the coolest destination in the world anymore. The universe may worship television Portland, but recent statistics show a tidal change between arrivals and departures.

Of course Portland still draws attention for Nike (even though it’s in Beaverton), Adidas, and Columbia Sports. Like Boston, it’s a hub for outdoor and athletic apparel, so much so that PSU and UO fuel the industry with a certified workforce.

As a high tech hub Portland is a national leader. From high dollar start ups funded by smart money, to AirBnb choosing Portland as a model city, to sharing economy apps, other cities dream of branding like Portland


Portland and Oregon, of course, aren’t resting on any laurels. The Portland Development Commission has identified software, advanced manufacturing and clean technology — all of which have elements of high technology — as three of the four industry clusters it seeks to bolster.

Business Oregon, the state’s business recruitment and economic development arm, identifies high technology as one of five key industries in which the state has advantages.

And the recently renamed Technology Association of Oregon is pursuing growth initiatives of its own.

Interpretation: The high tech ball is rolling in important places.


Portland’s business districts and neighborhoods inherently support each other in many ways. Since 1986 Venture Portland has invested in the smart, strategic growth of Portland’s unique neighborhood business districts.  These dynamic districts, which together make up a majority of the city’s businesses and nearly half of its jobs, play a vital role in Portland’s economic prosperity and collectively represent local, regional, national and international demand for goods and services.

Interpretation: You might come here for a dream job in a cutting edge industry, but you’ll stay because you love your neighborhood.


Venture Portland is comprised of an all-volunteer board of directors and professional staff.  The board is made up of delegates from member business districts that simultaneously serve on Venture Portland’s board and contribute to their business district while also working at their own businesses.  Per the organization’s bylaws, directors are elected each April by Venture Portland’s membership. Venture Portland’s staff has significant business district and non-profit management experience.

Interpretation: Venture Portland walks the walk, talks the talk, and gives money to business districts through benchmark and economic development grants.

Take Hillsdale Business District via Venture Portland for example:

“…Built in 1953, the family-owned Hillsdale Shopping Center’s distinct 1950s architecture defines Hillsdale’s aesthetic.  The family built the center on part of their former dairy farm.  Today the center houses a grocery co-op, restaurants and boutiques.

“Hillsdale is one of 13 regionally defined Town Centers in the Portland Metro area.”

One of 13? Now you’re wondering, “Where are the other twelve?” Leave a comment on them.

From the outside Portland sounds like a can’t miss destination. People rave about it. They come to town for a show, a game, a wonderful night out, and bring their friends. Then they start feeling a particular Portland gravity, an urban pull of favorite neighborhoods you can’t resist. Looking at you, southeast.

There’s something about design continuity that gives back. You feel it and want more. Venture Portland encourages that feeling in thirty six business districts.

Check some out on Portland Hug Day.

via David Gillaspie

Burnside Bridge via David Gillaspie

Images from a model on Portland Building 2nd floor.









About David Gillaspie
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